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August 12, 2014 at 5:00 am ET
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The Bugs & Cranks Guide to Winning Your Fantasy League

A Winner Is YouEvery year, come late March, the following e-mail appears in your inbox. It’s from that one dude you sort-of knew in college:

Hey Broheim, We need a 12th to fill out our fantasy baseball league. You in?

He doesn’t ask about the kids, doesn’t give a damn about your new job, he skips the small talk and whips out his fantasy baseball league. Jeeze… he could at least buy a guy drinks first. But what the hell…you like baseball. And it could be fun, following the action with your own Bad News Bears. So, for all those coerced into a season of fantasy baseball, we at Bugs & Cranks present our handy, step-by-step guide to a fun, winning season.

Auto Draft

Don’t be proud. If the league allows it, let the algorithm draft for you. How many of us had the stones to take Altuve or Abreu in the early rounds of 2014? “Who the heck is Jose Abreu? Bobby Abreu’s brother? PASS.” Drafting a winner is like assembling a Post-Modern Abstractionist jigsaw puzzle: there are a ton of parts and it’s hard to say how they fit together. Let the computer do the work.

Luck

Seriously, in 162 games, there’s no way of knowing if a pitcher will Kershaw the league or shake hands with Tommy John. It’s mostly luck. And yes, Kershaw is now a verb.

The Secret of the Slash

Players often qualify for positions they rarely (if ever) play. If a 1B platoons in Left for a few games—voila!—he’s now a 1B/OF. Now you can pencil two big, clubbing dopes into your lineup. This is especially helpful in leagues which count double plays. It also allows you multiple backup players in case your starting 1B takes a fastball to the wrist (SEE: “Luck”).

No Hometown Players

After listening to a long winter of inane sports talk radio, you know it’s gonna be a breakout year for [insert perpetually slumping player on your hometown team]. JUST NO. Do you want to lose fantasy baseball? Because that’s how you lose fantasy baseball. NOTE: Detroiters and Los Angelos can probably ignore this rule.

Find the Crazy Trader

Every league has at least one methed-out Billy Beane. “Trade my established, 5-tool player for this just-recalled pitching prospect? Weeeeeee! Sold!” This guy is your friend. Fleece him for all he’s worth! Isn’t it fun to be evil?

Thrift Shop Hero

Cue the Maclemore; winning fantasy baseball is all about poppin’ them tags. There’s always one or two solid players who go undrafted. Mekly Cabrera, for example, took an HGH-cation for half of 2013. Sans stats, most computer algorithms lacked the data to draft him in 2014. Keep an eye on the second-hand stores, you’ll pick up a few gems that will leave your fellow fantasy owners wailing and gnashing their teeth.

"...Is that your grandma's closer?"

“…Is that your grandma’s closer?”

Trade ALL the Closers!

The save is baseball’s foot fetish: some people are way into it, and those who aren’t will never understand. Add the relative instability of bullpens, and you’ll find closers grossly overvalued. In the early months of the season, trade a closer or two; you’ll gain them back as teams shift the backend of their bullpen in July and August.

Did I Mention Luck?

At this point, you’re probably in first place. Talk about luck, right? But what do we do about Jason Kipnis? He was supposed to be a top-10 player. Damn, it… do we hold Kip or gamble on another 1B/OF?

They’re Not Baseball Players, They’re Statistical Accumulation Machines

Okay, if you want to win, you have to forget the player’s name. Forget his face. He’s not the guy who signed a homer deal. He’s not the dude who spends off-days visiting sick kids in the hospital. It’s all about the stats, baby. You’ve got to be a cold-hearted bastard. There’s no hometown heroes here. I don’t care if your grandmother is playing 3B; if she’s not producing, send her to the glue factory.

He's not Mike Trout; He's a d20 with a +19 modifier.

He’s not Mike Trout; he’s a d20 with a +19 modifier.

Waiver Watching

Some guys play fantasy baseball like they’re carrying nuclear launch codes. You’ll never get a clear answer on their asking price for Miguel Cabrera. However, if you watch the waiver wire and see they’ve dropped a decent outfielder to pick up another middling starting pitcher, waste no time. There’s blood in the water! SWOOP IN FOR THE KILL!

Enable the Disabled

Devin Mesoraco’s hamstring injury probably sucked for Devin Mesoraco. For fantasy owners, Devin’s DL stint presented the chance to snag a slugger on the cheap. Impatient fantasy owners often waive players rather than waste a precious DL spot. At the very least, a gimp player makes for a cheaper trade. Watch RotoWire for any whiff of injury news. Set your hawk eyes on any little mouse hobbling down the first base line. Listen for the tearful cries of the beaned and broken. Those sorrowful sounds are music to the winner’s ears!

Also, Luck

Damnit, Cliff Lee! You couldn’t even give me one quality start after that DL stint! NOT EVEN ONE! How the hell am I supposed to trade you for OBPS and HR help when you’ve got more WHIP than 50 Shades of Grey?!

Don’t Sleep or Eat

Listen, the other suckers are doing dumb things like playing with their kids and using their time at work to actually work. You could be checking the daily lineups, scouring rumor mills for the latest injury news. If you want to win, you’ll need to spend at least 30 minutes deliberating between Brett Gardner and Nelson Cruz. Tangential to this, if you don’t get a decent Wi-Fi signal in the bathroom, you’ll just have to hold your deuces until October.

 WINNING!

And look at that! With mere weeks left in the regular season, we’re 56 games up on our closest competition. Soon, you’ll be enjoying the best things in life: [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjMQbzBhTb4] Feel that power! The trophy will soon be yours! In the meantime, I’ll be compulsively refreshing RotoWire. Here’s to hoping another All-Star stat generator takes a fastball to the junk.

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